The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
March 21, 2018 - Gini Beqiri
Goleman's (1998) popular book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, suggests that emotional intelligence accounts for 67% of the abilities needed to be a successful leader and is twice as important as technical proficiency or IQ. This research has subsequently been supported by a number of studies. In this article we have summarised how and why emotional intelligence plays such a large part in being a successful leader.
What is emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and manage your emotions, as well as other people's emotions.
If you're emotionally intelligent you have the ability to:
- Identify what you're feeling
- Know how to interpret your emotions
- Understand how your emotions can impact others
- Regulate your own emotions
- Manage other people's emotions
Some people naturally inherit high EQ but it's a skill that you can practice and develop. By practicing emotionally intelligent behaviours your brain will adapt to make these behaviours automatic and replace less helpful behaviours.
Benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace
Multiple organisations use EQ to make important decisions, such as, hiring employees and deciding on pay rises. The World Economic Forum (2016) ranked emotional intelligence sixth in the top ten skills employees need by 2020 to succeed in the future workplace.
Other benefits of being an emotionally intelligent leader include:
- Providing effective communication
- Predicting staff reactions to negative news and aptly preparing for this
- Effectively listening
- Successfully managing difficult situations
- Recognising potential mental health risks to staff
- Making employees feel comfortable in sharing ideas and concerns with you
- Remaining optimistic and having a positive attitude
- Gaining trust and loyalty quickly which subsequently increases staff performance
- Being empathetic and compassionate towards staff and clients
- Remaining calm and handling pressure effectively
- Being open to positive and negative feedback
- Influencing and inspiring staff which helps when trying to gain support for future projects
- Motivating yourself and your staff
- Resolving conflict fairly
Low emotional intelligence
These traits are common in individuals with low emotional intelligence:
- Blaming others for mistakes
- Reacting badly to negative feedback
- Not handling stress effectively, such as, shouting at staff
- Criticising others
- Not listening to others' viewpoints
- Lacking empathy
- Avoiding socialising with colleagues
- Using either passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive communication
The five features of emotional intelligence
Goleman determined that there are five fundamental features of EQ, each with their own benefits:
- Social skill
Self-awareness is the ability to accurately recognise your: emotions, strengths, limitations, actions and understand how these affect others around you.
- Increases the likelihood of you handling and using constructive feedback effectively.
- By knowing your strengths and weaknesses you can improve your organisation's performance, for example, you may hire individuals who perform well in areas you struggle with.
Improve self-awareness by:
- Keeping a diary of the situations that have triggered disruptive emotions in you, such as anger, and your thoughts and behaviours during those situations. With this information you can form an understanding of your emotions and reactions and work towards self-regulation.
- Receiving feedback from staff as this can highlight how others perceive you and it also helps you target unhelpful reactions.
- Observing the response others have to your behaviour.
Self-regulation allows you to wisely manage your emotions and impulses - you show or restrain certain emotions depending on what is necessary and beneficial for the situation. For example, rather than shouting at your employees when you're stressed you may decide which tasks can be delegated.
- Self-regulation helps earn the respect and trust of employees.
- Useful when adapting to change.
- Allows you to react rationally.
Improve self-regulation by:
- Taking responsibility if you have made mistakes. Rather than blaming others admit that you are at fault. You'll feel less guilty and your team will respect you for it.
- Responding to situations calmly as your communication is more effective when you're in this state and this feeling will spread to others. Breathing techniques, such as controlled breathing, can be useful practice.
To be empathetic means you are able to identify and understand others' emotions i.e. imagining yourself in someone else's position.
- Provides you with an understanding of how an individual feels and why they behave in a certain way. As a result, your compassion and your ability to help someone increases because you respond genuinely to concerns.
- Especially helpful when delivering constructive feedback.
- Being empathetic shows your team that you care. For example, if a manager reacts angrily after finding out that an employee has been arriving to work late because their child is unwell, the team is likely to react negatively towards the manager. It would be more favourable for the manager to be understanding and agree on a plan of action with the employee, such as, the employee starting work earlier and finishing later.
- Employees will respect you more and subsequently job performance will improve.
To develop empathy:
- Imagine yourself in someone else's position. Even if you have not experienced a similar situation, remember a situation where you have felt the same emotion your employee is experiencing.
- Practice listening to your employees without interrupting them.
- Observe your employees and try to gauge how they're feeling.
- Never ignore your employees' emotions, for example, if an employee looks upset don't disregard this - address it.
- Try to understand first rather than form a judgement. For example, you may initially feel annoyed at an employee who seems cold and disinterested. However, after discovering they suffer from social anxiety you may feel more sympathetic.
- To communicate your empathy keep your body language open and regulate your voice to show your sincerity.
Being self-motivated consists of: enjoying what you do, working towards achieving your goals and not being motivated by money or status.
- Reduces your likelihood of procrastinating
- Increases self-confidence
- Keeps you motivated even if you face setbacks
- Makes you focused on achieving your goals
- Spreads to the team
To increase your motivation:
- Remember why you're doing your job - maybe think about why you wanted it initially.
- Set new goals if you lack them.
- Remain optimistic because to be motivated you must be positive. Even when there is a setback or a challenge identify one positive factor about it.
- To increase your employees' motivation explain why they are valuable, using example, as this will provide them with a sense of purpose.
5. Social skills
Effective social skills consist of managing relationships in a way that benefits the organisation.
- Effective social skills helps you to build rapport with your employees and earn their respect and loyalty.
- Employees will trust you which is especially valuable if unwelcomed decisions have been made, such as a rise in performance targets.
- When you interact with your employees you can identify the best way to meet their individual needs and identify how their abilities can be used to achieve the organisation's aims.
- Staff will feel comfortable presenting ideas to you and discussing concerns.
Improve social skills by:
- Developing your communication skills. Problems can arise if there is bad communication, such as, misunderstandings upsetting employees. Listen to feedback to work out what to target, for example, the manner in which you speak may need work or perhaps your body language.
- Learning how to provide praise and constructive feedback.
- Cooperating and working together with your employees because you are all working towards a shared goal.
- Listening to employees and practicing empathy.
- Building relationships with your employees will assist you in understanding how to manage each individual.
- Resolving conflict by looking at the situation from all the viewpoints involved and try to come to a compromise that benefits everyone.
Increasing emotional intelligence can be learned by anybody as it's simply a skill that requires practice. Even though it may seem overwhelming to manage the emotional needs of your employees, the positive effects it will have on your organisation makes it worthwhile - with ultimately happier stuff and better performances.